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Author Topic: Cultural references in Nocturne  (Read 1391 times)

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sitnaltax

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Cultural references in Nocturne
« on: October 27, 2017, 11:42:31 pm »
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On one of the preview threads, there was a little bit of discussion about missing cultural references on the previewed cards. As it turns out I have lot of interest in folktales, mythology, and the fantasy literature and games that have spring from those sources; so I thought I'd give a crack to examining the previewed cards, the underlying folklore/mythology/culture that's being referenced, and how it interacts with what the card does.

Overall, this set seems meant to evoke a mysterious, menacing setting where the nights are long, frightened people in the country and city alike lock their doors tightly, and strange creatures and spirits prowl. There are bright spots and defenders of goodness (Blessed Village, Faithful Hound, presumably Guardian) but overall the atmosphere is of aggression and malice.

Feel free to discuss, of course. If there's demand, I'll discuss the rest of the cards when they're available.

Devil's Workshop: There's a saying "idle hands are the devil's workshop", a somewhat puritanical warning that people who aren't kept busy by labor or schooling are likely to create mischief or otherwise do bad things in their idle time. This card takes the metaphor literally. The effect ties into the saying nicely: if you've been idle (gaining nothing) you get a very nice reward, a Gold.

Imp: An expression for a "little devil". In both D&D and the broader popular imagination, a small and weak but unambiguously evil creature. Creating them at the Devil's Workshop is apt.

Raider:
No particular reference here; this is just a bandit who comes at night, attacks your town, runs off with the good stuff. The effect is pleasantly resonant with Pillage, which hey, is what raiders do.

Ghost Town: An expression for an abandoned town; in this case, the town looks to be literally haunted by ghosts in addition to just uninhabited. The card works like a delayed Village, so we have the "little settlements = bonus actions" flavor continued here.

Crypt: A crypt is a large burial chamber, suitable for burying the wealthy dead with some of their worldly wealth, which can be looted later. A common D&D trope is looting crypts for their treasure (and fighting the undead within, of course).

Shepherd: No particular reference here; shepherds are the kind of simple folk that might be the victims of these various creatures, or telling stories about them. They herd their sheep in Pastures, of course.

Pooka: One of the trickier ones here. A pooka is a Celtic faerie or spirit, not associated with any one myth in particular. Like several of the fey, they could be good or evil. They're animal shapeshifters, which is why the illustration here has bunny ears. The Pooka made an appearance in Changeling: the Dreaming, where they were specifically cast as fun-loving animal shapeshifter tricksters. One common faerie trick is to provide a gift with strings attached--this comes out as the Cursed Gold heirloom here. I'm not aware of any legend tying cursed treasure to pooka in particular.

Cemetery: In a world where the dead can come back to life, a cemetery has particular importance, of course. A ghost is the general term for the incorporeal spirit of someone who's died but who remains to haunt the world. Ghosts might want to cause harm to the living, they might want revenge or to fulfill an unaccomplished task, or they might just want company. There are a lot of folktales, stories, and media about ghosts that only appear in a mirror, a mirror being used as a way to see into the spirit world, or spirits which are trapped in a mirror. The latter is the case with Haunted Mirror: you have come into possession of a mirror with such a ghost trapped inside it, and when you break the mirror, it escapes and helps you.

Faithful Hound: No particular reference here. Just an ordinary, friendly, loyal dog that helps protect you from the various lurking dangers.

Blessed Village: No particular reference; this particular village is favored by the local nature spirits and prospers as a result.

Will-O'-Wisp: Most broadly, this is a strange light that appears over the water, usually in a swamp. They're sometimes thought of as either the spirits of the dead, or spirits in their own right. Either way, they're elusive and definitely impossible to catch. Following one out into the swamp is a recipe for not coming back. However, in this case, the swamp is friendly and the wisp actually helps you.

Idol: An idol is just an object of religious worship; in the mythic world where spirits are real, the spirit or minor deity in the idol can either bring good luck to you or bad luck to your enemies.

Druid: Historically, druids were the priest/magistrates of the ancient Celts. In the popular imagination (and as a D&D character class), they wield the magic of nature--communicating with or controlling plants and animals, shapeshifting, calling the elements. This Druid references that by letting you choose which of the nature-oriented Boons to use.

Fool: In the popular imagination, fools are often considered lucky--think Jack and the Beanstalk, who makes a series of poor decisions (buying "magic beans", climbing up into the sky castle) but ends up prospering anyway. Likewise, this Fool can get Lost in the Woods, which lets you throw away something of value to hopefully get something even better. This particular fool has a Lucky Coin which seems to bring him the wealth he needs without working for it.

Werewolf: A werewolf is a person who sometimes turns into a wolf. Depending on the setting, this is usually at night and under the full moon, and often the werewolf is extraordinarily dangerous, bestial and lacks self-control in this state. This Werewolf reflects the folklore well; he's a helpful citizen by day and a dangerous menace by night.

Skulk: No particular reference. You sneak around, steal some gold, and cause trouble for everyone else.

Cursed Village: This is, of course, the opposite of the Blessed Village. Rather than attracting the notice of beneficial spirits, it's received the attention of hostile ones, and you get in trouble just for setting foot there. The good news is that you can channel some of that dark power into a huge draw if you set it up right.

Leprechaun: The folklore of this Irish faerie far exceeds the scant mythology. Leprechauns are cobblers by trade (hence the illustration) and own pots of gold that can be found at "the end of the rainbow". But they're ill-natured--anywhere from mischievous to downright malicious--and trying to get their gold usually ends up in trouble. Likewise, if you capture a leprechaun, it will grant wishes if you let it go free; but these wishes are likely to be granted in a malicious manner that keeps to the letter of the wish while perverting its spirit. This card reflects the folklore REALLY WELL in that you get Gold, but at the price of trouble--unless you're very lucky (the number 7 is considered lucky) in which case the faerie actually grants your wish.

Exorcist: This is a little bit of a counterintuitive card. An exorcist is a priest who performs exorcisms, which drive out demons or evil spirits from a person they're possessing. (This is a real-world rite occasionally performed by Catholic priests, among others.) The most famous relevant fiction is, of course, The Exorcist. However, the card allows you to gain Spirits by sacrificing other cards rather than vice versa. At least it allows you to rid yourself of that Cursed Gold.

Pixie: The third Celtic faerie we've seen, pixies are supposed to be tiny trickster spirits, often winged. They are capricious but not necessarily evil. In this case, the pixie seems to have played a trick by turning the guy who found it into a goat. There's nothing mythical about goats, they just eat everything.

Vampire: No card or creature here has more legends built around it than vampires. Bram Stoker's Dracula didn't invent the idea, but it laid the foundation for most modern tropes. More modern examples are Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade RPG, and of course the unfortunate Twilight series. Vampires attack and drink the blood of the living (giving out Hexes), and can charm the unwary into helping them (I think this is what the gainer effect is referring to). They can also shapeshift into wolves or bats, so this Vampire spends half her time as a bat.   

Necromancer: Most broadly, a necromancer is a wizard who specializes in death magic. Depending on the setting, this might include speaking to the dead, interacting with ghosts, etc--but in this case, the necromancer is raising the dead to as zombie servants. These particular servants represent other Dominion cards (Apprentice, Stonemason, Spy) who aren't quite as effective as reanimated corpses as they were in life.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2017, 12:53:11 am by sitnaltax »
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jivjov

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2017, 11:50:51 pm »
0

This is all real good stuff, I absolutely want to see your take on the remainder of Nocturne, and maybe even more dominion cards in general?
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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2017, 12:21:44 am »
+4

A famous example of a Pooka is in the film Harvey, whose title character is an pooka in the form of a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. That may explain the rabbit ears on the Dominion pooka.
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Cave-o-sapien

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2017, 01:23:07 am »
0

A famous example of a Pooka is in the film Harvey, whose title character is an pooka in the form of a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. That may explain the rabbit ears on the Dominion pooka.

Or the artist did what I did: the first hit (for me) on Google image search is of a female human/rabbit hybrid.
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Kirian

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2017, 04:18:04 am »
+1

I can't help but think of it as Koopa.  So maybe a man-turtle hybrid?
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Asper

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2017, 05:47:48 am »
+1

I can't help but think of it as Koopa.  So maybe a man-turtle hybrid?

You're thinking of Kappa. It's on Envy.

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2017, 09:32:18 am »
+2

Another kind of cool thing about a lot of the cards is how they are thematic opposites of each other. Werewolf-Faithful Hound, Cursed Village-Blessed Village, Druid-Necromancer etc. Kind of a good-evil kind of thing. I really do like the theme of this set.
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JThorne

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2017, 10:06:24 am »
+6

My favorite thematic Fool reference is the internal Dominion one: "Gosh, my draw engine dudded again and only hit $3. I guess I'll just buy another silver, because I obviously need more money."

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Asper

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2017, 12:06:46 pm »
0

My favorite thematic Fool reference is the internal Dominion one: "Gosh, my draw engine dudded again and only hit $3. I guess I'll just buy another silver, because I obviously need more money."

If your engine can't produce more than 3$, it's not the fault of too many Silvers...

markusin

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2017, 12:35:22 pm »
+1

Will Cobbler be a reference to "The Elves and the Shoemaker"? Cobblers and shoemakers are not quite the same thing, but yeah elves coming out at night to work on stuff would fit the theme.
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LostPhoenix

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2017, 12:45:19 pm »
+1

I can't help but think of it as Koopa.  So maybe a man-turtle hybrid?

I will never see this card the same way ever again.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2017, 02:31:48 pm »
0

Will Cobbler be a reference to "The Elves and the Shoemaker"? Cobblers and shoemakers are not quite the same thing, but yeah elves coming out at night to work on stuff would fit the theme.

This seems very likely. Faeries are taking over this expansion!
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JThorne

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2017, 11:36:07 am »
+2

Quote
If your engine can't produce more than 3$, it's not the fault of too many Silvers...

It can be. If your deck contains enough money to do what you want to do and you didn't draw deck because of colliding terminals, insufficient draw, or not enough trashing, then you need more actions, draw and/or trashing, not adding more stop cards. I've seen plenty of players buy a third or fourth Silver when they're trying to build an engine just because they had a dud turn in the middle of building, thus shooting themselves squarely in the foot. The Fool's lucky coin, in that respect, is going to be more dangerous for many players than Cursed Gold.
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werothegreat

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2017, 11:39:01 am »
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Quote
If your engine can't produce more than 3$, it's not the fault of too many Silvers...

It can be. If your deck contains enough money to do what you want to do and you didn't draw deck because of colliding terminals, insufficient draw, or not enough trashing, then you need more actions, draw and/or trashing, not adding more stop cards. I've seen plenty of players buy a third or fourth Silver when they're trying to build an engine just because they had a dud turn in the middle of building, thus shooting themselves squarely in the foot. The Fool's lucky coin, in that respect, is going to be more dangerous for many players than Cursed Gold.

Part of that is also opportunity cost.  If you're buying a Silver instead of an engine piece, that's silly.  If you gain a Silver with your free Lucky Coin, you can still buy the engine piece.
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JThorne

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2017, 11:48:10 am »
+1

Quote
Part of that is also opportunity cost.  If you're buying a Silver instead of an engine piece, that's silly.  If you gain a Silver with your free Lucky Coin, you can still buy the engine piece.

True, but anyone who has tried to build an engine with Embassy knows the feeling of being really annoyed by being given Silvers you don't actually want (especially in multi-player.) And if an engine relies heavily on long strings of cantrips like Peddler, Conspirator, Chariot Race, or even Merchant, even a single extra Silver hurts a deck like that dramatically.

The better I get at engine-building, the more I grow to hate treasure cards. I start to see Silvers and even Golds as just marginally better Coppers. A necessary evil if they're the only source of economy; the object of the game is to figure out how few of them you can get away with.

(P.S. All hail the mighty Goat. Now there's a treasure I can appreciate.)

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Asper

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2017, 07:13:35 pm »
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Quote
If your engine can't produce more than 3$, it's not the fault of too many Silvers...

It can be. If your deck contains enough money to do what you want to do and you didn't draw deck because of colliding terminals, insufficient draw, or not enough trashing, then you need more actions, draw and/or trashing, not adding more stop cards. I've seen plenty of players buy a third or fourth Silver when they're trying to build an engine just because they had a dud turn in the middle of building, thus shooting themselves squarely in the foot. The Fool's lucky coin, in that respect, is going to be more dangerous for many players than Cursed Gold.

That makes sense.

crlundy

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2017, 02:00:22 am »
+4

Exorcist: This is a little bit of a counterintuitive card. An exorcist is a priest who performs exorcisms, which drive out demons or evil spirits from a person they're possessing. (This is a real-world rite occasionally performed by Catholic priests, among others.) The most famous relevant fiction is, of course, The Exorcist. However, the card allows you to gain Spirits by sacrificing other cards rather than vice versa. At least it allows you to rid yourself of that Cursed Gold.
I think of it as she exorcises the demon out of one of your cards (and into your deck). Exorcise the town Bureaucrat and out comes an Imp. Typical politicians.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2017, 02:12:26 am »
+9

Here are the rest of the cards!

Bard: In medieval Britain and Ireland, a bard was a professional singer/storyteller/musical performer. In popular culture they're often depicted as wandering from town to town, inn to inn. William Shakespeare is sometimes known as "The Bard". Bards are also a playable character class in D&D, where their songs have magical powers (mostly to bolster their allies); this card, which grants Boons, seems to be hinting at that pseudo-mythical bard.

Changeling: Yet another in the series of faeries; this one is found across Celtic, German, and Slavic folklore. Folktales were told about faeries that kidnapped infants; they would leave a faerie in its place, called a changeling. The changeling looks the same as the kidnapped child, but has a bad faerie nature. These stories might explain the tendencies of small children to suddenly start sleeping poorly, eating poorly, or getting into foul moods for no particular reason. The card's ability to turn into others references this form-duplicating faerie. White Wolf published an RPG "Changeling: the Dreaming" which was about faeries in the modern world in general, and doesn't much reference this particular legend.

Cobbler: Both in art and effect, this is a specific reference to the story "The Shoemaker and the Elves", recounted by the Brothers Grimm and others. A poor but hardworking cobbler (a shoemaker) leaves out materials overnight; while he sleeps, helpful elves make them into well-made shoes, which he's able to sell and improve his fortunes. Depending on the telling, the elves either come back, or he makes some mistake that drives them away. In any case, the way this card provides what you need at Night is a direct reference to the story.

Conclave: No specific reference. A conclave is a private, closed-door meeting; the existence of the meeting may not be secret but the proceedings definitely are. The most famous conclave is the meeting in the Vatican where the cardinals elect the next Pope, so the term "conclave" connotes secrecy and mysticism. The similarity in effect to Conspirator is almost certainly not accidental.

Den of Sin: No specific reference. A "den of sin" usually refers to a brothel, but it could also mean a venue that provides gambling, drugs, or other vices, all possibly illegal. Those activities occur at night, of course, after honest and hardworking folks are in bed.

Guardian: I'm unsure about the specific reference here. As Gazbag pointed out, this seems to be a heroic statue that comes to life to defend you from the various dangers that are lurking. Stories about animated statues are a reasonably common trope (golems in general, guardian statues outside buildings) but the closest I can find to this sword-wielding guardian statue is the SNES game ActRaiser. Hopefully I'm missing something better that a commenter can fill in.

Monastery: No specific reference. A monastery is a building where monks live and work. Like Chapel, they accept donations of stuff you no longer need.

Night Watchman: No specific reference. This is a police officer or guard who watches a town or fort at night, keeping an eye out for trouble. It has a certain reconnaissance theme going on similar to our favorite card, Scout.

Sacred Grove: In the Celtic religions that Druids presided over, certain trees and groves were sacred; this card probably refers to those. (The word "druid" comes from ancient Celtic languages--something like "oak-knower"). The blessings of the grove spread to everyone.

Secret Cave/Magic Lamp: This is a specific reference to the story of Aladdin, which was included in the first Western translations of the Arabian story collection _Arabian Nights_ (and most recently popularized by the Disney movie). In the story, the young rogue Aladdin finds a secret cave and escapes with a magic lamp. The lamp contains a genie--a powerful creature who serves the owner of the lamp by granting wishes. (It's not specific to Aladdin, but genies and other wish-granters often grant their wishes in threes). Secret Cave, of course, works a lot like Secret Chamber; the Magic Lamp grants your three wishes if you figure out just the right trick.

Tormentor: If there's a specific reference here, I'm not sure what it is. This seems to be a demonic torturer who can either summon imps to help out or cause pain for your enemies, depending on how many of the imps are already around. (If there's a missing detail in the art that I'm not able to see, please point it out.)

Tracker: No specific reference. Broadly, a tracker is someone who follows the trails and tracks left behind by animals or humans. In this case, the tracker seems to be tracking a person or other humanoid, maybe pursuing a monster that was trying to get away. The pouch is nothing special, just some money set aside for convenient spending.

Tragic Hero: This is a general reference to the dramatic archetype of a hero who begins prosperous but falls to ruin through his own mistakes and actions (not usually villainy). Famous examples include Oedipus, who accidentally fulfilled a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother; and Hamlet, who embarked on a worthy quest for revenge but whose recklessness leads to the death of most of the play's characters. Likewise, as soon as things are getting really good for you, this Tragic Hero dies, but at least you get to inherit his Treasure! The crows in the illustration are omens of death or bad luck.


« Last Edit: November 17, 2017, 08:55:37 am by sitnaltax »
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Kirian

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2017, 02:38:06 am »
+1

Cobbler is the most thematic card in Dominion.
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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2017, 05:07:36 am »
+1

I think Guardian is supposed to be the statue on top of the column coming to life at night.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2017, 08:50:40 am »
+1

I think Guardian is supposed to be the statue on top of the column coming to life at night.

I think you're right. I'll update the post accordingly. Are you familiar with a specific legend that's being referenced? The closest I can come are golems and the old SNES game ActRaiser.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2017, 09:12:35 am »
0

Cobbler is the most thematic card in Dominion.

Yeah, I was really impressed at the integration of theme and mechanics. Other contenders for the title are Magic Lamp and especially Leprechaun.

I feel like the long history of Dominion cards has laid the groundwork to do more complicated things and it's cool that they're able to now. You couldn't have published Leprechaun in the base set or first expansion, it would have been baffling. (Just as the Time Spiral block contains my favorite Magic expansions, but you couldn't do all that what-if without a rich history to refer to.)

I also like the several cards that resonate with older cards in their effect and theme: Secret Cave/Secret Chamber, Conclave/Conspirator, Night Watchman/Scout.
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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2017, 09:18:41 am »
+4

Another note for Changeling: children with autism or mental disabilities were often accused of being changelings, and this was used as an excuse to mistreat them. :(
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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2017, 09:37:20 am »
+3

In Celtic tradition there were no written records so the bards were more than just storytellers. They were also historians and could be scientists, teachers, tacticians, seers, and so on as well.
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Re: Cultural references in Nocturne
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2017, 12:09:29 pm »
0

Will Cobbler be a reference to "The Elves and the Shoemaker"? Cobblers and shoemakers are not quite the same thing, but yeah elves coming out at night to work on stuff would fit the theme.

For most of my life I was told a "cobbler" is a shoemaker, and then recently I find out not only are they different, but that "cobbler" had negative connotations attached to it (especially from the viewpoint of the shoemakers). I don't think I'd ever connected the phrase "cobble something together" with the profession of repairing shoes, but it totally makes sense.
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